New Reports Predict Downturn in Federal Funding for Children

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Two new reports – both from the youth advocacy group First Focus – present the prospect of a troubling future for the nearly 200 programs for children and families that receive federal funding. Despite a rise in federal dollars directed toward these efforts in 2009 and 2010, researchers say that they project a long-term decline in government spending on youth-related projects.

The reports from First Focus, an organization that advocates the federal government to spend more on youth causes, state that increases in government spending on children the last few years were skewed by the impact of temporary American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, and that actually the share of overall government spending devoted to children declined.

Children’s Budget 2010  cites a 15.4 percent increase in federal spending on children from 2006 to 2010, from $212.9 billion in children’s funding up to $266.3 billion this year. The report even credits President Barrack Obama’s proposed 2011 budget for bumping children’s allocations up to $297.7 billion, a 10.1 percent increase from 2010,  when adjusted for inflation. But the tone sours as it points out that overall federal spending increased by 26.6 percent over the same five-year period, meaning that the share of spending devoted to children actually decreased.

Children’s Budget 2010 and a second report, Kids’ Share 2010: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2009, which First Focus funded but was researched by the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, explain the major reason for funding uncertainty: Recovery Act dollars are running out (though some will continue for several years) and most won’t be replaced. And without the Recovery Act money, the last several years of federal spending on children would look much more bleak. Kids’ Share 2010 estimates that from 2009 to 2019, 18 percent of Recovery Act money will benefit children and families, for a total of $156 billion doled out to such leading programs as Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, SNAP/food stamps, Head Start, earned income tax credit and state fiscal stabilization funds for education.

That, and the fact that most other increases in child-related funding in recent years came from mandatory funding increases through automatic allotments and not new discretionary funding from congressionally-initiated efforts, First Focus sees a disturbing future.

“While the short-term picture for children in the budget indicates improvements and an important hiatus from the previous years of decreased spending on children, it is critical to note that projections for long-term spending on kids look quite poor,” Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus, said in a press statement.

The Kids’ Share 2010 report predicts that states will be hit with a double whammy as Recovery funding runs out over the next 18 months and lean state budgets make it difficult to continue Recovery Act-funded programs.

“Despite a temporary boost in dollars as part of the Recovery Act, funding for children continues to face an uphill battle in the face of other budgetary pressures,” Kids’ Share 2010 co-author Eugene Steuerle, an Institute Fellow at the Urban Institute, said in a press statement.

The two reports were released at a special Children’s Budget Summit held in Washington, which also attracted White House and administration officials.


Kids’ Share 2010: Report on Federal Expenditures on Children through 2009, Brookings Institution, Urban Institute., Free, 40 pages. Contact: (202) 445-4312,

Children’s Budget 2010, First Focus. Free, 148 pages. Contact: (202) 445-4312,